In lieu of the recent horrific incidents which came to light during the violence in Manipur, the national outrage against the inhuman acts has had a massive impact.
Manipur is burning for the last 81 days and scores of lives were lost in the deadliest ethnic conflict in the history of Manipur. The majority Meitei and minority Kuki-Zo communities are at the loggerheads while a recently leaked video created massive outrage in the nation. Northeast India has always been considered a matriarch society, and this is the area from where rapes are usually not heard. At such a point in time, when we see that rape is made as an instrument of terror or a way to express anger against the other community, it is indeed a dark chapter not only for Manipur but for the entire India. Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi rightly said that the heads of the entire 140 crores of Indians are now bowing in shame due to this unfortunate incident.
On top of this, the statement of Manipur Chief Minister Mr. N. Biren Singh where he mentioned that there are hundreds of such incidents, and he is well aware of all of them, created further ripples in the society and now there is a serious demand to punish the perpetrators of this heinous crime at the earliest. In the aftermath of all the incidents when everyone would like to see the return of normalcy in the sensitive border state, there are a few aspects that need to be analyzed at the level of the central government as well as by intellectuals of this country. Let’s analyze them in five quick pointers.
Fake news and narratives were the biggest challenge – The entire fiasco started with the spread of fake news and nearly every incident of violence in the last 81 days is attributed to some or the other fake news. Leave apart the social media warriors, even the mainstream media and print media of Manipur were openly spreading fake news and twisted narratives. Despite this, the Manipur government failed to control or contain such elements, and they continue to spread hatred unabated till now. Ideally, the very first action should have been taken against those inciting violence but that did not happen. Had the state government been even a little more serious about bringing normalcy to the state, they would have acted against the people spreading fake news. However, it is still not late and the nation is awaiting them to do it.
Trust deficit- The biggest damage which is caused by recent events is irreparable trust deficit among the communities. Both Kuki-Zo as well as Meitei communities were staying together for centuries in the hill state and were even interlinked through marriages and other relations. The way violence erupted, and the way Rape was used as a tool of horror, the trust of both communities is broken beyond all possibilities. It is a tough question as to how these communities will be able to stay together in the same state in the coming future. Government has to really do something so that the trust can be brought back even though partially.
Impartial & timely justice- One of the most important aspects of building trust will be impartial justice beyond the boundaries of religion, caste, creed, or community. Since the Kuki-Zo community has openly accused the state government of abetting violence, they will not accept any state machinery carrying out justice. In view of such events, all the incidents should be investigated in detail by neutral central agencies and the perpetrators of all the crimes including the ones who incited violence should be brought to the gallows. The punishment is so severe that in the future anyone doing it should think twice before doing it. And all of this should happen in a time-bound manner. Remember “Justice delayed is justice denied”.
Compensation and rehabilitation-Hundreds of people are killed or injured, tens of thousands have been displaced from their homes, and over 500 villages are burnt or damaged. Although no compensation can cover the losses of lives or the wounds of their heart but an impartial assessment of the situation once again by central agencies and timely as well as generous disbursal of relief aid may help in lowering the anger of the people. It will also help in re-instating the faith of displaced people in the Indian system.
Detailed Investigation on terror and external factors- Manipur is just not an ordinary border state. It is the state from where the ambitious Eastern Corridor to ASEAN will pass and hence its importance becomes several times more than any other state. The way entire violence took place in a systematic manner, the way weapons were looted from the state armory, the way womenfolk’s (Meirapaibis) came and freed hardcore terrorists from the custody of the Indian Army, and the way the situation was handled by the state government, indicate a well-planned strategy and a long-term goal. This can only be achieved when there is involvement of an external force. So, the onus lies on the government to investigate in detail if the violence was just an ethnic clash or a state-sponsored cleansing of a community, or an external act. The facts should also be presented before the public so that they do not play into the hands of perpetrators in the future.
We must remember one thing; violence is not permanent, and it will stop someday. But while the physical wounds may heal, the wounds of the heart will never. The violence which started on 03rd May 2023 has left an irreparable dent in society which will be remembered for ages. It is impossible to bring back the past but such actions in the future can be avoided and for that, the central government must win the trust of the people. It is the need of the day.